Griffith, the actor who played a genial Southern sheriff in the fictional town of Mayberry, wavedfrom a replica sheriff's car Tuesday to hundreds of fans onhand to watch the unveiling of a memorial to "The Andy GriffithShow."
Griffith went immediately to a gazebo and helped pull down ablue cloak covering the 800-pound bronze statue of Griffith'sSheriff Andy Taylor walking to a fishing hole with his son, Opie.
"That beats anything. I kind of wish I looked like that now,"Griffith said.
"The Andy Griffith Show" has been a television rerun staple for 40 years, never leaving the air since its original run inthe 1960s.
"It's just a wholesome show, lots of genuine values in the show... a good show for your kids to watch," said Ricky Carnes, whowore a sheriff's uniform similar to one worn by Taylor's deputy,Barney Fife. "If this show keeps going like it is it'll probablylast another 50 years."
Some of the people at the park Tuesday kept the characters aliveby wearing T-shirts with pictures of Taylor, Opie, and oddballmechanic Gomer, who inspired his own spinoff show.
In a deal Raleigh and the network signed in March, TV Landagreed to build and maintain the statue at no cost to the city.
Local officials say they hope it will help attract more tourists.
The unveiling drew people from as far away as Nebraska andIllinois, said Jim Clark, a freelance writer and founder of theshow's fan club, who traveled from Nashville, Tenn., for the30-minute ceremony.
"This particular day I think it's Andy Griffith himself who gotus up here. It's just exciting to get a chance to get a glimpse ofhim. And, of course, the statue is just a neat thing," Clark said.
"That's going to be a real monument literally to Mayberry andwhat it stands for. And to see Andy here with it, that's a prettygood combination."
Griffith, who is from Mount Airy, now lives on the NorthCarolina coast in Manteo. Some in Mount Airy have grumbled that itis a better spot for the statue. The town is said to be a model forMayberry.
A plaque accompanying the statue recalled the image establishedby the show. Griffith read from it as he closed his remarks.
"The Andy Griffith Show," Griffith read, "a simpler time, asweeter place, a lesson, a laugh, a father and a son."